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Gotta Go? Understanding Overactive Bladder

Overactive bladder, or OAB, is a group of symptoms rather than a specific disease. Yet, it is not a normal part of aging and can negatively affect a man’s social, personal and work life in a number of ways.

Think of OAB as that “gotta go” feeling, or extreme urge to urinate. This overwhelming urge is one of the main signs that you may be living with overactive bladder (OAB). Other symptoms of OAB include:

  • Urine leakage – The urge to urinate may cause your bladder to leak urine at inconvenient times.
  • Increased frequency of urination – The need to go to the bathroom many times throughout the day.
  • Nocturia – Waking up multiple times at night to urinate.overactive bladder

Pictured: A normal bladder (left) and an overactive bladder with urine leakage (right).


Risk Factors for OAB

As men age, the prevalence of OAB increases. Men with certain prostate conditions including prostate cancer are at higher risk of developing urinary incontinence issues including OAB. Other risk factors include:

  • Neurological conditions that affect the brain or spine, including multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, stroke, cerebral palsy and spinal cord injury
  • Diabetes
  • Certain gastrointestinal conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
  • Certain foods such as caffeine, alcohol and spicy foods can irritate the bladder and make OAB symptoms worse
  • Obesity and being overweight


Diagnosing OAB

Your physician will perform a comprehensive medical history and evaluation to accurately diagnose  OAB symptoms. Your doctor will examine your abdomen as well as the prostate. Additional tests may also include:

  • Urinalysis
  • Blood work
  • A bladder diary
Specialized tests may also be performed to get a clear idea of the cause of your OAB symptoms, including:
  • Pelvic ultrasound – This test checks for structural abnormalities of the lower urinary tract and can assess for bladder abnormalities.
  • Post-void residual test (PVR) – Determines how well you empty your bladder by measuring residual urine after voiding. Measuring residual urine may aid your doctor in determining if there is a blockage or nerve or muscle problem.
  • Cystoscopy – A small camera called a cystoscope is inserted into the urethra to inspect the urethra, prostate, and bladder for any visual abnormalities. This procedure can be performed in your doctor’s office or ambulatory surgery center under topical local anesthesia.
  • Urinalysis and urine culture – Checks urine for the presence of infection or abnormalities.

Treating OAB

Millions of people in the U.S. live with the life-altering symptoms of OAB every day, and some 30% of men have OAB symptoms that affect their quality of life.

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